Learning focus: Students must skim and scan through texts to find important key information and then communicate this information to the rest of their group.
Benefits: Students get up out of their seats and have a chance to move around, teacher is able to have students quickly extract key points without having to read the whole text by using focused questions, students must actively remember information and then communicate it to the group resulting in better short term and often long term retention.
Timing: 15 – 30 minutes. Suitable for introducing new ideas within texts at the beginning or in the middle of class.
Equipment: Texts either copied on paper, or in text books, a list of questions to ask students, mini-whiteboards or scrap paper, pens.
Planning time: 15 minutes to write questions (if you know the text well, more if you don’t), if printing/copying the text, add 5 more minutes.
- Write questions which ensure students have to focus on the learning objectives of the lesson (use the standards from your curriculum to see what students need to get out of this text, and find information about these standards within the text; now write a question to have students find this information) and which ignore any of the unnecessary information.
- Students should be seated in groups of 3 or 4.
- Each group needs a mini whiteboard or paper.
- To set up the reading race there are two options: a) get one student from each group to open their books to the correct page, and then take 5 steps away from the group, put the book down (on different tables, or a clear space away from any groups) and then return to their group; b) print/copy the text and use blue-tack to post one for each group on the walls around the room.
- 2 students from each group go to the text, one sitting down is the scribe (in a group of 4, the remaining person observes or discusses possibly answers before the readers return).
- Tell the students that it is a race, then ask the first question.
- Students at the text then find the answer, and have to run back to their group and tell the scribe the answer.
- When a group is finished, the scribe holds the paper/mini whiteboard in the air.
- Record the order that the students finish.
- Check each groups’ answers, and award points based on their finishing position (e.g. 1st = 40, 2nd = 30, 3rd = 20, 4th = 10, last = 0).
- Scribes and readers then rotate before asking the next question so that everyone has a go at reading and writing.
NB. This activity is excellent for introducing new topics. It cuts through vast amounts of text quickly and efficiently, and students will retain a lot of what they have read/written in the race. An excellent follow up activity is 5 minutes to mind map all and any of what they can remember from the race.